With Halo 2 racking up record sales and eager fans rushing to Microsoft's Xbox Live online gaming service to compete with other gamers from around the world, it should be an exciting time for Xbox enthusiasts. However, for the thousands of Xbox users who have chosen to modify, or "mod," their Xboxes with hardware devices that bypass the machine's copy-protection features and let them pirate games, Halo 2 has another surprise in store: Those users are being summarily kicked off Xbox Live without any warning.

The timing couldn't have been better from Microsoft's perspective. The company knew that it had a hit on its hands with Halo 2, and because it can use the Xbox Live service to detect the presence of mod chips, Microsoft figured it would use the unprecedented surge of customers to the service as a chance to weed out unsuspecting evil-doers. Cameron Ferroni, general manager of the Xbox software platform, told the Associated Press (AP) that the software giant isn't interested in users of modded Xboxes, but it does reserve the right to banish such people from its online service.

For legitimate users of Xbox Live--and Microsoft counts more than 1 million of them--the removal of modded Xboxes means that there will be less chance of cheating because users of modded Xboxes can use those chips to provide unfair advantages, such as making their onscreen characters invulnerable or in possession of all the in-game power-ups.